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Attorney General Jeff Sessions course back to long drug sentences

Posted by [email protected] on May 14, 2017 at 9:05 PM

The Trump era of drug enforcement has officially arrived, and it sounds a lot like the old days.

 

The message came this week in the form of a memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to all federal prosecutors: Stop seeking leniency for low-level drug offenders and start seeking the toughest penalties possible.

 

That's what federal authorities used to do, when the war on drugs fueled the passage of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. But under former President Barack Obama, the Justice Department tried to rein in the use of those statutes, which advocates say were used disproportionately against minorities and led to massive prison overcrowding.

 

For those who'd embraced a bipartisan movement to end harsh sentencing policies, reduce prison costs and focus on rehabilitating drug offenders, the attorney general's directive puts the country in danger of repeating an old mistake.

 

"It can't be emphasized enough that the direction they're pointing is 180 degrees wrong," said David Alan Sklansky, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches at Stanford Law School.

 

"Mandatory minimums have had a terrible effect on the American criminal justice system, and we need to retreat further from their use, not return to the patterns of usage a decade ago."

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